Let us simplify. A platform is pretty much like an ecosystem. There is a reason why an organism is more likely to thrive in an ecosystem that is optimized for its sustenance than if, say, we left it abandoned in an unfamiliar environment. Ecosystems evolve to secure the existence and sustenance of not only this organism but also its future generations. A platform is ecosystems you need for your product to live, breathe, thrive, and make its place in the World. Systems are increasingly reaching out and connecting. The last thing you want to do is to devote your resources towards building an isolated product.
Platform Over Product, Any Day – Shifting the Mindset
The idea of a technological ecosystem. Intriguing, isn’t it? A platform approach opens up extensible frameworks, while a product approach has to restrict itself to unique scenarios and customizations. Platforms are designed to be flexible, which means you can build, modify, accommodate and rebuild. Unlike singular products, platforms, like Lego blocks, can also be used to make multiple services using the same foundational structure. While products use simple customer maps (read: limited scope for growth), platforms are complex, thriving ecosystems whose functionalities support each other’s evolution and cater to a rich diversity of users.
Platforms Do the Work
A platform is built logically. It is not just about integrating stuff – it is a shared set of functionalities, unified together to solve a problem. This unified platform, much like the Justice League of DevOps, is an intelligent way of building. The functionalities have a common UI framework and the freedom to choose entry points.
You may be already analyzing machine data, and you may have already set your data science team up to the task, but data from isolated, fragmented sources can compromise security and consistency by limiting visibility. This is where a platform approach sweeps in wearing a cape. An end-to-end platform serves a variety of skill sets across comprehensive datasets using enterprise-grade tooling and governance.
The World has also changed the way it looks at data. Modern businesses do not see data as a consequence of a product life cycle. It is now a constant source of introspective transformation. Data-rich technology platforms like Amazon, PayPal, and Netflix are now accelerating innovation by launching new products and services based on insights gained from their platform.
The Age of the Platform – Surpassing Value Expectations with Design Thinking
Let us take a moment to step outside and look at the bigger picture. Platforms are living up to their reputation of building substantial value for their stakeholders. When the covid pandemic hit the hardest, food delivery aggregators (Platform to Consumer Models) stepped up to source and delivered essential items, groceries, and medical equipment. A platform approach assures stakeholders that you’re in it for the long haul.
This augmentation of the external network value results from the extensive and iterative application of design thinking into the foundational edifice of the platform. A human-centric approach allows the platform to empathize with the end-user and dish out tactical solutions. The resulting aggregated value of these solutions is exponentially higher than that of the company that came up with them. Call it a perfect case of the multiplier effect.
Managing a Platform Product
Effectively managing a platform product requires shifts in perspective:
Encouraging a platform-first culture will give your company the space to instill a mindset of building for flexibility. Allow time for spiking. Spiking ensures enough room for the organization to research and reflect on the architectural decisions ahead of the run-up to the main show.
Investing in the mid-tier stakeholders such as developers, producers, and partners by empowering them to deliver rich and optimal value experiences to the end-users.
Ensuring support for the microservices architectureenables apps to be built on top of the existing platform without tangling the pre-existing microservices. This support should be a part of a bigger long-term plan for platform investment that is well-balanced against short-term wins.
Future-proofing platform updates will go a long way in strategically maneuvering older APIs to remain relevant and functional.
Identifying the company’s key differentiation as a core interaction. It will also involve protecting these core interactions by allowing developers to work on complementary experiences only when the core is fully optimized.
User Profiles for Platforms – the entire World’s a Stage
A platform ecosystem is an intriguing mix of internal and external stakeholders, first-party products, a marketplace, apps, third-party integrations, developers, creators/producers, sales, support, system integrators, owners, and consumers.
While it is relatively simpler to define the end-user of a product, platform users are more varied and diverse. Identifying this diversity and defining user profiles around these roles becomes a game-changer.
Building a Platform
In the reverberating words of Michael Porter, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
Here’s a quick rundown of the key factors that a business should consider while building a platform:
Where do you currently stand on the Product-Platform spectrum?
In most product-to-platform transitions, a hybrid business model is most effective as it allows room for users to familiarize themselves with third-party products and services while they continue to derive value from the company’s original product.
What are your key sources of innovation?
Identify and reshape key sources of innovation to make the best of advanced analytics for today and the future.
How will you leverage existing users?
Find ways to rapidly convert existing product consumers into platform users by creating new and adequate value, aiming for consistency, and prioritizing users in improvement processes.
What kind of talent should you hire?
Look for talent with the right mix of subject matter expertise, risk management skills, and ethical intelligence.
How can you look at data differently?
Reassess the way data aggregates in your company and link it to strategic decision-making.
How can you make the most of existing assets?
Create a talent inventory of existing potential and seek ways to reduce friction in development and delivery processes.
Leveraging Platforms to Stay in the Lead
Plan your foundational platform architecture in such a way that lets you embrace new technologies in the future. Data and analytics are continuously evolving. By leveraging platforms, your company can merge seemingly unrelated datasets to ask questions that have not been asked before. It will give your business insightful segues into your next disruptive innovation.
At iauro, we eat, sleep, drink, and breathe microservices and micro-frontend architectures. Hit us up here at www.iauro.com/contact-us and let us help you transition your business into a rich-yield platform from the start to the finish line.